I’m now at episode 12 of season 1 of Jessica Jones, but I’ve wanted to talk about the show’s sound design since the early episodes. Sound has always been important to me as a viewer of both television and movies. In fact, one thing my favorite movies have in common with each other is that I loved their soundtracks (Interstellar (2014), Arrival (2016), and Dunkirk (2017)). However, that’s neither here nor there. All that’s to say is that as I started watching Jessica Jones and paid close attention to the details, I found that the soundtrack was very unique. Like many TV shows, the music is used sparingly, mostly to add tension and emotion. Even then, I thought the way it was used complemented the writing very well. In an earlier blog entry, I mentioned how Jessica Jones frequently chooses to use silence over monologuing and conversation to develop the characters and the plot. In these moments of silence, the music is what drives our understanding of the situation. Without music, it would be very difficult to gauge the feelings of Jessica in one of her many pensive scenes. Most often, we hear a slow, soft, jazzy melody that is reminiscent of the sound of bustling New York. To me, this melody symbolizes her loneliness as the world around her is seemingly so full of energy. This melody is recurrent throughout the show, typically present as Jessica people-watches or drinks in her apartment.
While I think the jazzy melody is the most important item from the soundtrack as a whole, the next most important is Kilgrave’s theme. This track plays whenever something mysterious is afoot, usually signaling the work of the main antagonist. It’s great at building tension and foreshadowing, which contrasts the jazzy melody mentioned earlier. The two combined result in an interchange between pensive and suspenseful moods that mirror Jessica’s internal and external conflicts. The complexity of Jessica and her struggles is one of the things that keep me coming back for more, and the music’s role in developing her complexity is undeniable.
The youtube video above is a great example of the soft music that is so good at setting the mood. Listen for yourself!